But we must now pass on to the coronation, the great event of 1838, and the greatest spectacle of her Majesty's reign. Long before the day fixed for the ceremony the deepest interest was manifested in it. Amongst the proclamations issued was one declaring it to be the Queen's royal will and pleasure to dispense with, at her approaching coronation, all the ceremonies usually performed in Westminster Hall on such an occasion. These ceremonies included the entry of the Champion of England on horseback, whose right it was to throw down his gauntlet in defence of the Sovereign, challenging any one to take it up. Another proclamation stated that the peers were to be relieved from doing homage in the usual fashion by kissing the left cheek of the Sovereign. One can imagine the girl-Queen's dismay if this ancient custom had been maintained in her case. For her royal uncles to kiss her cheek was only a natural proceeding, but that some six hundred spiritual and temporal peers should follow each other in kissing the Sovereign's left cheek would have been an appalling prospect. The old custom was for each peer, according to his rank and profession, singly to ascend the throne, to touch with his hand the crown on the Sovereign's head, and then to kiss her on her cheek. Though all the peers would no doubt have taken care to be present on such an interesting occasion, it cannot be matter of surprise that they were relieved from this and other onerous duties.
The first issue of sovereigns bearing the impress of Queen Victoria took place on June 14th, but the bankers were only supplied with limited numbers, and could not gratify the whole of their clamorous customers at once. The crown in which the Queen was to appear at the coronation was made of hoops of silver, enclosing a cap of deep blue velvet; the hoops were completely covered with precious stones, surmounted by a ball covered with small diamonds, and having a Maltese cross of brilliants on the top of it. The cross had in its centre a splendid sapphire; the rim of the crown was clustered with brilliants, and ornamented with fleur-de-lis and Maltese crosses, equally rich. In the front of the large Maltese cross was the enormous heart-shaped ruby which had been worn by Edward, the Black Prince, and which afterwards figured in the Helmet of Henry V. at the battle of Agincourt. Beneath this, in the circular rim, was a large oblong sapphire. There were many other precious gems, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires, and several small clusters of drop pearls. The lower part of the crown was surrounded with ermine. The value of the jewels on the crown was estimated at £112,760.
Amid great pomp and ceremony the coronation of her Majesty took place in Westminster Abbey, on Thursday, the 28th of June. London was awake very early on that day, and by six o'clock strings of vehicles poured into the West End. Crowds of foot-passengers also were on the move, all converging towards one point. From Hyde Park Corner to the Abbey there was scarcely a house without a scaffolding, soon to be filled with sightseers. Seats were sold at a very high rate, while tickets for the inside of the Abbey were bought on the eve of the ceremony at more than twenty guineas each. At ten o'clock a salute of twenty-one guns, and the hoisting of the imperial standard in front of the palace, intimated that her Majesty had entered the State carriage. The procession then set forth, preceded by trumpeters and a detachment of Life Guards. Then came the foreign ministers and ambassadors, followed by the carriages of the Royal Family, containing the Duchess of Kent, the Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and the Duke of Sussex; next her Majesty's carriages, containing the members of the household and others; and then, after officers and guards of various kinds, came the State coach, drawn by eight cream-colored horses, conveying the Queen and the Mistress of the Robes and Master of the Horse. All the royal personages were loudly cheered, but when the State carriage bearing the young Sovereign came in view the enthusiasm was something tremendous. Her Majesty appeared in excellent spirits, and highly delighted with the imposing scene. The troops saluted in succession as she passed, and remained with presented arms until the royal carriage had passed the front of each battalion, the bands continuing to play the National Anthem. To the credit of the crowd, a hearty cheer was raised for Marshall Soult, which the French veteran acknowledged with great satisfaction, not unmingled with surprise. It is said that every window along the route was a bouquet, every balcony a parterre of living loveliness and beauty; and as the Queen passed, scarfs, handkerchiefs, and flowers were waved with the most boisterous enthusiasm. Her Majesty was more than once visibly affected by these exhilarating demonstrations, and occasionally turned to the Duchess of Sutherland to conceal or express her emotion.
Westminster Abbey was reached at half-past eleven. On each side the nave, galleries were erected for the spectators, with accommodation for a thousand persons. Under the central tower of the Abbey, in the interior of the choir, a platform was raised, covered with a carpet of cloth of gold, and upon it the chair of homage, superbly gilt, was placed, facing the alter (sic). Further on, within the chancel, and near the altar, was Edward the Confessor's chair. The altar was covered with massive gold plate. Galleries were provided for members of the House of Commons, foreign ambassadors, and other persons of distinction, the Judges, Masters in Chancery, Knights of the Bath, the Lord Mayor, and the members of the Corporation.
Shortly before noon the grand procession began to enter the choir. It was headed by the prebendaries and Dean of Westminster, followed by the great officers of her Majesty's household.
The scene which followed her Majesty's entry into the Abbey was one of the most impressive which could possibly be conceived. The Queen looked extremely well, and had a very animated expression of countenance. Some of the foreign ambassadors had numerous and splendid suites, and were magnificently attired; but by far the most gorgeous was Prince Esterhazy, whose dress, down to his very boot-heels, sparkled with diamonds. The scene within the choir which presented itself to the Queen on her entrance was very gorgeous, and indeed almost overwhelming. The Turkish ambassador, it is reported, was absolutely bewildered; he stopped in astonishment, and for some time would not move up to his allotted place. The Queen was received with hearty plaudits as she advanced slowly towards the centre of the choir; the anthem, "I was glad when they said unto me. Let us go into the house of the Lord," being meanwhile sung by the musicians. Then, with thrilling effect and full trumpet accompaniment, ''God save the Queen" was rendered. The booming of the guns outside was deadened by the tumultuous acclamations of those within the Abbey, which did not close till the beloved object of this enthusiastic homage reached the recognition-chair, on the south-east of the altar. Here the Queen knelt at the faldstool, engaging in silent prayer. Her mind must have been agitated with deep and conflicting emotions at this awful moment, when the vast weight of her responsibilities pressed in upon her. There were many who shed tears as the simple maiden, the centre of so much splendor and the cynosure of a whole empire, implored the Divine strength in the fulfilment of her sovereign duties.
When she rose from her devotions the pealing notes of the anthem rang through the arches of the Abbey. Scarcely had the music ceased when, in pursuance of their prescriptive right, the Westminster scholars rose up with one accord and acclaimed their Sovereign. They shouted in almost deafening chorus, "Victoria, Victoria! Vivat Victoria Regina!'' This was the first actual incident in the proceedings of the coronation.
The Archbishop of Canterbury now advanced from his station at the great south-east pillar to the east side of the theatre or platform, accompanied by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Great Chamberlain, the High Constable, and the Earl Marshall, preceded by Garter King-at-Arms; and presenting the youthful monarch to her people, made the recognition in these words: "Sirs, I here present unto you Queen Victoria, the undoubted queen of this realm; wherefore, all you who are come this day to do your homage, are you willing to do the same?"
In response there was a rapturous and general shout of "God save Queen Victoria!" The Archbishop and the great officers of State made the same recognition to the people on the other three sides of the Abbey, south, west, and north; the Queen remaining standing, and turning herself about to face her loyal lieges on each side as the recognition was made, which was answered with long and repeated acclamations. The last recognition over, the drums beat, the trumpets sounded, and the band struck up the National Anthem. This part of the ceremonial has been described as one of the most striking and picturesque.
The bishops who bore the patina, Bible, and chalice in the procession, now placed the same on the altar. The Queen, attended by the Bishops of Durham and Bath and Wells and the Dean of Westminster, with the great officers of State and noblemen bearing the regalia, advanced to the altar, and kneeling upon the crimson-velvet cushion, made her first offering, being a pall or altar-cloth of gold, which she delivered to the Archbishop of Canterbury, by whom it was placed on the altar. Her Majesty next placed an ingot of gold, of one pound weight, in the hands of the Archbishop, by whom it was put into the oblation basin. The bearers of the regalia, except those who carried the swords, then proceeded in order to the altar, where they delivered St. Edward's crown, the sceptre, dove, orb, spurs, and all the other insignia of royalty, to the Archbishop, who delivered them to the Dean of Westminster, by whom they were placed on the altar. The religious ceremony now began with the reading of the Litany by the Bishops of Worcester and St. David's. Then followed the Communion Service, read by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishops of Rochester and Carlisle. The Bishop of London preached the Sermon from the following text: Second Chronicles, xxxiv. 31. "And the king stood in his place, and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and statutes, and with all his heart and all his soul to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book."
Her Majesty paid profound attention to the words of the sermon, in the course of which the Bishop praised the late King for his unfeigned religion, and exhorted his youthful successor to follow in his footsteps. The earnest manner in which she listened, and the motion with which, at the mention of her dead uncle, she bowed her head on her hand to conceal a falling tear, were highly touching.
On the conclusion of the service, the Archbishop advanced towards the Queen, addressing her thus: "Madam, is your Majesty willing to take the oath?" The Queen replied, "I am willing." "Will you solemnly promise and swear," continued the Archbishop, "to govern the people of this United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and the dominions thereto belonging, according to the statutes in Parliament agreed on, and the respective laws and customs of the same?" In an audible voice the Queen answered, "I solemnly promise so to do." "Will you, to the extent of your power, cause law and justice, in mercy, to be executed in all your judgments?" "I will." Then said the Archbishop: "Will you, to the utmost of your power, maintain the laws of God, the true profession of the Gospel, and the Protestant reformed religion established by law? And will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the united Church of England and Ireland, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established within England and Ireland, and the territories thereunto belonging? And will you preserve unto the bishops and clergy of England and Ireland, and to the churches there committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges as by law do or shall appertain to them or any of them?" Clearly and firmly the Queen replied, "All this I promise to do."
Her Majesty, with the Lord Chamberlain and other officers, the sword of State being carried before her, then went to the altar and took the coronation oath. Laying her right hand upon the Gospels in the Bible carried in the procession, and now brought to her by the Archbishop, she said, kneeling: "The things which I have here before promised I will perform and keep. So help me God!"
Then the Queen kissed the book, and to a transcript of the oath set her royal sign manual. After signing, her Majesty knelt upon her faldstool while the choir sang Veniy, Creator, Spiritus.
The next part of the ceremony, the anointing was extremely interesting. The Queen sat in King Edward's chair; four Knights of the Garter — the Dukes of Buccleuch and Rutland, and the Marquises of Anglesey and Exeter — held a rich cloth of gold over her head; the Dean of Westminster took the ampulla from the altar, and poured some of the oil it contained into the gold anointing-spoon; then the Archbishop anointed the head and hands of the Queen, marking them in the form of a cross, and pronouncing these words: "Be thou anointed with holy oil, as kings, priests, and prophets were anointed. And as Solomon was anointed king by Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet, so be you anointed, blessed, and consecrated queen over this people, whom the Lord your God hath given you to rule and govern. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."
The Archbishop then pronounced a prayer or blessing over the Sovereign.
The spurs were presented by the Lord Chamberlain to the Queen, who returned them to the altar. The sword of State was presented by Lord Melbourne to the Archbishop, who in delivering it into the Queen's right hand said: "Receive this kingly sword, brought now from the altar of God, and delivered to you by the hands of us, the servants and bishops of God, though unworthy. With this sword do justice, stop the growth of iniquity, protect the holy Church of God, help and defend widows and orphans, restore the things that are gone to decay, maintain the things that are restored, punish and reform what is amiss, and confirm what is in good order; that doing these things, you may be glorious in all virtue, and so faithfully serve our Lord Jesus Christ in this life that you may reign for ever with Him in the life which is to come. Amen."
Lord Melbourne, according to custom, redeemed the sword "with a hundred shillings," and carried it unsheathed before her Majesty during the remainder of the ceremony. Then followed the investing with the royal robe and the delivery of the orb.
One curious custom was observed by the Duke of Norfolk, who, as Lord of the manor of Worksop, holds an estate by the service of presenting to the Sovereign a right-hand glove during the ceremonial of the coronation. The Duke left his seat, and approaching the Queen, kneeling, presented to her a glove for her right hand, embroidered with the arms of Howard, which her Majesty put on. His Grace afterwards occasionally performed his high feudal office of supporting the Sovereign's right arm, or holding the sceptre by her side.
The Archbishop, in delivering the sceptre with the cross into the Queen's right hand said: "Receive the royal sceptre, the ensign of kingly power and justice." Next he delivered the rod with the dove into the Queen's left hand, this being "the rod of equity and mercy." The Archbishop then took the crown into his hands, and laying it upon the altar, offered up a prayer. Turning from the altar with the other bishops, he now received the crown from the Dean of Westminster, and placed it on her Majesty's head; whereupon the people, with loud and repeated shouts cried, "God save the Queen!" At the moment the crown was placed on the head of the Sovereign, the act was made known by signal to the semaphore at the Admiralty, from whence it was transmitted to the outports and other places. A double royal salute of forty-one guns was fired, and the Tower, Windsor, Woolwich, and other guns gave a similar greeting to the crowned monarch of the British realms.
On the assumption of the crown, the peers and peeresses put on their coronets, the bishops their caps, and the kings-of-arms their crowns; while the trumpets sounded, the drums beat, and the Tower and park guns fired their volleys. Then the full burst of the orchestra broke forth, and the scene was one of such grandeur as to defy description. The Queen was visibly agitated during the long-reiterated acclamations.
After an anthem had been sung, the Archbishop presented the Bible to the Queen, who gave it to the Dean of Westminster to be placed on the altar. The benediction was then delivered by the Archbishop, all the bishops, with the rest of the peers, responding to every part of the blessing with a loud and hearty "Amen!" The choir then began to sing the Te Deum, and the Queen proceeded to the chair which she first occupied, supported by two bishops. She was then "enthroned," or "lifted," as the formulary states, into the chair of homage, by the archbishops, bishops, and peers surrounding her. Then began the ceremony of homage. The Archbishop of Canterbury knelt and did homage for himself and other lords spiritual, who all kissed the Queen's hand. The royal dukes, with the temporal peers, followed according to their precedence, class by class. Ascending the steps leading to the throne, and taking off their coronets, they repeated the oath of homage in the following quaint and homely Saxon form: "I do become your liegeman of life and limb, and of earthly worship; and faith and truth I will bear unto you, to live and die, against all manner of folks. So help me God!"
Each peer then in turn touched the cross on her Majesty's crown, in token of his readiness to support it against all adversaries. He then kissed the Sovereign's hand and retired.
A pretty and touching scene took place when the royal dukes, who alone kissed her Majesty's cheek, came forward to do homage. The Duke of Sussex, who was suffering from indisposition, was feebly and with great difficulty ascending the steps of the throne, when the Queen, yielding to the impulse of natural affection, flung her fair arms about his neck and tenderly embraced him.
While the lords were doing homage, the Earl of Surrey, Treasurer of the Household, threw coronation medals in silver about the choir and lower galleries, which were scrambled for with great eagerness.
At the conclusion of the homage the choir sang the anthem, "This is the day which the Lord hath made." The Queen received the two sceptres from the Dukes of Norfolk and Richmond; the drums beat, the trumpets sounded, and the Abbey rang with exultant shouts of "God save Queen Victoria! Long live Queen Victoria! May the Queen live for ever!" The members of the House of Commons raised the first acclamation with nine cheers. Of the House of Commons as then constituted, there survive only three members who are members of the Lower House at the present time — Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Villiers, and Mr. Christopher M. Talbot.
The solemn ceremony of the coronation being now ended, the Archbishop of Canterbury went to the altar. The Queen followed him, and having divested herself of the symbols of sovereignty, she knelt down before the altar. The Gospel and Epistle of the Communion Service having been read by two bishops, her Majesty made her offering of bread and wine for the communion, in the paten and chalice. A second oblation was a purse of gold, which was placed on the altar. The Queen received the sacrament kneeling on the faldstool by the chair. Afterwards she put on her crown, and with her sceptres in her hands, took her seat again upon the throne. The Archbishop then proceeded with the Communion Service, and pronounced the final blessing. The choir sang the noble anthem, "Hallelujah! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth." The Queen then left the throne, and attended by two bishops and noblemen bearing the regalia and swords of State, passed into King Edward's Chapel, the organ playing.
The Queen delivered the sceptre with the dove to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who laid it on the altar. She was then disrobed of her imperial robe of State, and arrayed in her royal robe of purple velvet by the Lord Chamberlain. The Archbishop placed the orb in her left hand. The gold spurs and St. Edward's staff were delivered by the noblemen who bore them to the Dean of Westminster, who placed them on the altar. The Queen then went to the west door of the Abbey wearing her crown, the sceptre with the cross being in her right, and the orb in her left hand. The swords and regalia were delivered to gentlemen who attended to receive them from the Jewel Office. It was nearly four o'clock when the royal procession passed through the nave at the conclusion of the ceremony. As the Queen emerged from the western entrance of the Abbey, there came from the thousands and tens of thousands of her subjects assembled in the vicinity, thunders of acclamation and applause. Similar greetings awaited her on the whole of the homeward route; and the scene was even more impressive than in the morning, as her Majesty now wore her crown, and the peers and peeresses their robes and their jewelled coronets.
To the coronation succeeded the festivities. The Queen gave a grand banquet to one hundred guests, and the Duke of Wellington a ball at Apsley House, which was attended by 2000 persons. On the next day, and for three succeeding days (omitting Sunday), a fair was held in Hyde Park; this popular festive entertainment being visited by her Majesty on Friday. All the theatres in the metropolis, and nearly all other places of public amusement, were by the Queen's command opened gratuitously on the evening of the coronation.
Enthusiastic demonstrations took place throughout the country, and public dinners, feasts to the poor, processions and illuminations were the order of the day. Every town in England had its rejoicings; while in the chief continental cities British subjects assembled to celebrate the auspicious event.
But important events kept the young Sovereign's mind under high tension at this time. The Ministry was falling into disrepute; there was war in Canada, and much discontent at home. The time had come when the Queen felt that she desired a nearer and yet a dearer one than any of the companions or counsellors of either sex by whom she was surrounded. The cares of State weighed heavily upon that young heart, and she required someone upon whom she could lean in times of anxiety and trouble, and whose love and counsel would cheer and sustain her in periods of perplexity. Speculation had long been rife as to when, and with whom, she would enter upon the wedded state. Fortunately, however, for her happiness, no reasons of State were allowed to dictate her course in this the most momentous change in a woman's life. We shall presently see that when her marriage came to be celebrated, it was one of affection, and that it was the woman as well as the Queen who stood before the hymeneal altar.